Vegetable lo mein is your go-to recipe if you’re craving a quick and easy Asian stir-fry. Chinese noodles cooked in the instant pot are brought together with stir-fried, crunchy veggies in sauce for the most perfect and colourful lo mein ever! Both instant pot and stovetop instructions are included.
If you're a street food junkie like me and can't get enough of spicy Indo-Chinese (think spring rolls, chilli chicken, gobi manchurian), say hello to this vibrant and happening homemade lo mein recipe. THIS is what I crave when I'm hungry at 4 and want a quick salty-ish snack that I can stuff my face with. 4 AM or 4 PM? Lo-ve lo-mein at both ends of the clock actually!
Why should I make lo mein at home?
I can see your brain ticking away right now, my friend. Why, for the love of God, should I even try making lo mein at home when I can order inexpensive take-out from my local Asian restaurant? Why go to the trouble? That's what you're thinking, right? Here's why:
- For starters, it's really easy to make at home. I mean, really. That's just the way this recipe is. It takes 4 minutes of cooking time (with QPR too) for the noodles to get done in the instant pot and another couple of minutes to stir fry the vegetables in sauce. And then it's just a matter of bringing the twain together for a couple minutes more. And it's done!
- Another very good reason. If you've got scraps of veggies in your fridge dying a slow death (a lone pepper, a quarter head of cabbage, that half-used bag of carrots or beans...), this is the perfect chance to clean them all out in one fell swoop. You can use anything and everything here. Snap peas, spinach, bok choy, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, mushrooms, celery, baby corn, peppers ... anything goes. Even leftover chicken, shrimp or eggs, if you're not strictly vegetarian. Just dump it all in and it will come together in a beautiful medley with the noodles. I don't know about you but I feel quite accomplished when I've done that. Gotten rid of the leftovers, that is.
- And I'm not even done yet. This one's a no-brainer. If given the choice between homemade, healthy food and restaurant grub with who-knows-what-oil-they-used-for-frying, guess what I would go for?
So, now that I've convinced you that you absolutely need this homemade vegetable lo mein in your life, here are the things I put in it. Feel free to customize, of course, depending on what you have:
- Exact amounts of ingredients are mentioned in the recipe card further down in the post.
- I also added half a teaspoon brown sugar (not pictured).
- These Chinese noodles are available in the international aisle of any supermarket, but you can also use ramen noodles or even spaghetti if nothing else is there.
- Please don't make do with any cooking oil like canola or light soy sauce. Use sesame oil and a good quality dark soy sauce for full bodied flavour and taste. This is the 'secret' to a vibrant lo mein bursting with flavor.
How to make vegetable lo mein
Important notes about the recipe:
I cook the noodles and vegetables separately and then bring them together. If you are using an instant pot (or not), adding everything to the pot as a one-pot recipe doesn't work because the vegetables get mushy. And that's no fun!
Of course, you can make this recipe without an instant pot, but you would still need two pans. One for cooking the noodles and another for sautéing the veggies in sauce. The instant pot just makes it easier to cook the noodles because you don't have to watch over them or drain them once they're done.
You might find that the top layer of the noodles is a little dry when you cook them in the instant pot. However, once you mix the noodles and veggies together, these will get done.
Step 1: Get the noodles ready
- Place the noodles in the steel liner of your instant pot and pour 1.5 cups water over them. Pressure cook on high for 4 minutes and then do a QPR (release pressure immediately). Remove the steel liner from the pot and keep it aside. Or, if you're using a saucepan, fill a large saucepan with 6-8 cups water and add a few drops of oil to it. Bring the water to a roiling boil and add the noodles to it. Once the noodles are al dente (cooked but still firm), drain the pan of the water and rinse the noodles with cold water to stop the cooking process. Keep them aside, covered.
Step 2: Sauté the vegetables in sauce
- Chop and slice the vegetables of your choice. Or use a bag of pre-chopped vegetables.
- Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large frypan and add the onions. Sauté for one minute or until the onions turn translucent. Add the rest of the vegetables immediately followed by the chilli garlic sauce, soy sauce, black pepper and brown sugar. Add just a pinch of salt if you so wish. Not too much since the soy sauce is already quite salty. You can omit the salt altogether if you don't want to add more. Toss the vegetables for 2-3 minutes on high heat. They should still have some crunch when you add them to the noodles.
Step 3: Bring the noodles and vegetables together
- Place the steel insert back into the instant pot, switch the pot to sauté and add the stir-fried vegetables to the noodles. Stir for 2 minutes until the noodles and veggies are well mixed. If you're not using an instant pot, add the stir-fried vegetables to the sauce pan in which you made the noodles and on gentle heat, toss them together until the noodles and vegetables are well mixed. Take out the lo mein in a platter and serve while it's still hot.
Vegetable Lo Mein
- 8 oz Chinese noodles or spaghetti
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 small to medium onion sliced
- 2 cups shredded cabbage
- 10-12 sugar snap peas
- 5-6 white button mushrooms sliced
- 1 cup red bell pepper
- 1 cup yellow or orange bell pepper
- 1-2 green chillies
- 1 tablespoon chilli garlic sauce
- 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon brown sugar
- a pinch of salt optional
Instant Pot Lo Mein
- Add the noodles and 1.5 cups water to the steel insert and fit the lid. Make sure the steam release vent is on 'sealing' and press the pressure cooking button (high). Set the timer to 4 minutes. Once the timer beeps, do a quick release by turning the steam release vent to 'venting.' Open the pot and remove the steel insert to prevent the noodles getting cooked further from the residual heat of the pot.
- While the noodles are cooking in the pot, put a wok or frypan on the hob of your stovetop and heat the sesame oil. Add onions and after one minute, add the vegetables followed by the sauce ingredients: chilli garlic sauce, soy sauce, black pepper, brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Toss for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Add these vegetables (along with any scrapings and sauce) to the steel insert and put the steel insert back into the instant pot. Switch to sauté (normal) and mix the noodles and vegetables. Cook for 2-3 minutes more, stirring to make sure the noodles don't stick to the pot. Take the lo mein out in a platter and serve hot.
Stovetop Lo Mein
- Fill a large saucepan with 6-8 cups water and add a few drops of oil to it. Bring the water to a roiling boil and add the noodles to it. Once the noodles are al dente (cooked but still firm), drain the pan of the water and rinse the noodles with cold water to stop the cooking process. Keep them aside, covered.
- Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large frypan and add the onions. Sauté for one minute or until the onions turn translucent. Add the rest of the vegetables immediately followed by the chilli garlic sauce, soy sauce, black pepper and brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Toss the vegetables for 2-3 minutes on high heat. They should still have some crunch when you add them to the noodles.
- Add the stir-fried vegetables to the sauce pan in which you made the noodles and on gentle heat, toss them together until the noodles and vegetables are well mixed. Take out the lo mein in a platter and serve while it's still hot.
- Use the vegetables of your choice. You don't have to stick to the ones mentioned in the recipe. Other options are baby corn, broccoli, spinach, bok choy, carrots, cauliflower, beans, celery etc.
- You can use a bag of mixed pre-chopped vegetables from the produce section of the supermarket if you don't want to chop the vegetables separately.
- Substitute the Chinese noodles with ramen or spaghetti if you want. Follow the package instructions to cook these.
- Do use a good quality sesame oil and dark soy sauce for maximum flavour. Regular cooking oil and light soy sauce dilute the taste significantly.
- Serve the lo mein while it is still hot and fresh from the stovetop or instant pot. Of course, you can store the leftovers in the fridge for a day or two. Heat the leftovers in the microwave before serving.